The government and the TTD on one side and the priests and the Brahmin community on the other, have locked horns over alleged irregularities happening on the top of the seven hills. The most shocking is the allegation on violations of faith including denial of teerdha prasadam to the Lord.
The government claims that chief priest Ramana Deekshitulu was made to retire as per the existing rules. But, the community and some faithful intellectuals reject the government’s point of view and claim that the duties of serving the God are bound by the faith of the person and not the rule of law.
The BJP had taken up the issue dragging it from the Seven Hills to the national capital and even to the doors of the Supreme Court. The administrative irregularities can be discussed and judged by the courts of law. But the issue of faith is something different and one wonders how a priest is made to retire at certain age. The work of the priest in the temple is not an employment where files can be cleared by the successor. It is not just faith here. It is something to do with the practices that are followed to worship the God. The practices are important to protect and keep up the sanctity of the place that increases the faith of the people. This has nothing to do with the age as it has to be passed on to the future generations.
One wonders why the issue had come up now. If one looks back to the sequence of events happened around Tirumala this month, the flashpoint started after the visit of BJP national chief Amit Shah. The BJP chief had worshipped the presiding deity Lord Venkateswara after completing the electioneering in Karnataka. The BJP chief had the darshan of the deity while the TDP leaders were holding protest outside the temple.
The newly formed TTD, which is more loyal to the TDP, seems to have found itself uncomfortable with Shah given the traditional welcome and offered rituals. That is what appears as the flash point for the row. The priest who had received Shah was kicked out by the TTD forcing him to retire as per the rules. The kicked out priest had again rushed to Shah giving scope for everyone to suspect as if the current row is political and is between the TDP and the BJP.
Charges of corruption are not new to the TTD and we have been hearing them year after the year. The money involved in various works or the huge spending of the TTD on various projects comes as baggage of corruption with the ruling party leaders taking lead. But this time, the issue is surrounding around the faith and practices at the temple. This is potentially strong enough to disturb the faith of the devotees. The charge that god was not given the teerdha prasadam for weeks together is not acceptable. Whoever is responsible for the same has to be punished.
There is a controversy over the government appointing a north Indian IAS officer as the temple executive officer. But, that was something to do with the administration and it did not disturb the faith of the devotees. But Ramana Deekshitulu’s allegations are connected to the faith of the people as his claims are about violation of practices.
The controversy that would hurt the religious sentiments of the people is not good either for the party in power or the people in place at the temple.